Last night I dreamt I took a trip with Oprah. Yep, Lady O herself. I have been waiting for this dream for years. YEARS!
Across several dream days, O and I laughed, drank tea, talked books and swapped stories. It was heaven.
For those of you wondering, she mostly wears monochromatic v-neck sweater-and-slack combos; she has 35 different pairs of readers; she takes a few sips of the very finest tequila both before and after dinner; and, yes, she did say “….Beeeth….Mi-TCHELL!” and wrapped me in one of those slightly awkward shoulder hugs with the back pat. Dreams do come true in dreams, y’all.
Oddly, the scene was Lake Ontario, one of the Great Lakes, where I spent summers growing up. But there were dolphins, and a definite island vibe.
Because Dreamland knows no boundaries, it was all strange bedfellows: Oprah, me, my mom intermittently, and a full cast of lovely young Pacific Islanders.
We were on a cruise ship, though in the dream it bore strong resemblance to my father’s 18-foot fiberglass Stamos from the early ‘90s.
At one point, Oprah and I sat tightly together on the bow, the wind in our hair. We spotted a pod of dolphins porpoising off the starboard side, and looked at each other, our eyes full of tears. She took my hand and told me, ‘Have faith, dear one; you’re on your path.’ Trite as it may sound, it felt like a benediction. I had been super-souled.
The voyage ended when we came ashore on what could only be described as the village in Moana. After that, things get a little fuzzy. My mom showed up, but Lady O didn’t leave, so that was awesome. We had a mission to save the residents of this island from volcano eruptions—clearly the age-old conflict of ‘Oprah-vs-nature.’ (No question who’s winning that one).
Somehow we managed to save the day; I honestly haven’t a clue how. But the end of the dream is crystal clear. The drama had concluded, and it was time to board a water taxi to the mainland and go home.
Not surprisingly, I hadn’t realized that everyone else was all packed and sitting on the shuttle boat. They were all waiting for me—including Lady O herself.
My clothes and personal effects were still strewn about the cabin we had shared, and I think there was an ungodly expensive candle still lit. I began furiously throwing things around the room and stuffing them into bags.
From the porthole, I could see them all waiting, arms crossed, looking cross. But Oprah was not having it; she waits for no one.
I heard her before I saw her.
“What’s all this, hmmnnn?” She was leaning against the door frame with her eyebrows raised.
She said nothing more, and offered no help as I stuffed, zipped, and schlepped. I struggled to keep up behind her. And then moments before disembarkation, she gestured to stop and placed her arm halfway across the exit door, blocking my way.
‘You, my dear, need to get your shit together.’
One need not be a dream interpreter to see that this is the anxiety dream of a scattered person in a fierce transition.
‘You’re on the right path, my dear, but get your shit together.’ Sounds about right.
For me, life is pretty much dolphins or volcanoes; I’m often either transcendent or melting down—at least that’s how it feels. Maybe it’s the infamous ‘highs and lows’ in my family, now known with less and less stigma as garden-variety anxiety and depression.
Wouldn’t it be divine if we could all answer the perfunctory ‘How are you?’ question as truthfully as possible?
‘I’m alright, I guess. Nothing too crazy—just a touch of the ol’ A & D this week is all. Got my car tissues, so there’s that.’
Sitting here in front of a blinking cursor, I feel like Carrie Bradshaw trying to bring this story home—to connect these ramblings and make sense of what they means in the greater scheme of things.
It’s likely the journalist (and the failed perfectionist—who am I kidding?) in me that wants to wrap things neatly up in a bow, earning self-worth through a valid and perhaps even useful contribution of some sort. I like to clean up my mess, no questions unanswered and all that. And yet…
Lately I’ve been more interested in the questions—the really messy, uncomfortable questions that we all ponder in therapy or on podcasts, but that very few of us want to discuss in-person, IRL (in real life for the wiser readers). We need the security blanket; the dark cloak of confidentiality.
Well, not me; my style has always been to say what people might think and not say. So, as I said, I’ve been investigating my current status, and persuading those well-honed reporting instincts to get curious rather than conclusive.
After all, the most poignant questions don’t often have easy answers, do they?
But sometimes they have amusing ones, which are funny because they’re true. I’ve been binge-watching Mrs. Maisel with the rest of America lately. Life itself is funny; we couldn’t make this shit up if we tried.
And so, The Beth List below is actually a few of those Big Questions, and my latest thinking. Except there’s a twist. Who doesn’t love a twist?
You see, for these questions, we’ve got a pair of responses: one aspirational, one actual. It’s a Beth’s Laid Plans BOGO special, ‘cause there’s a truth under every truth.
However, having just read these again, I’m going to can the value judgments. They are not mutually exclusive. I’m a complex effing woman; they can both be true. And that, my friends, is radical self-candor.
The Beth List: a twofer just for youfer
1. Who am I?
I am an imperfect human with an observant eye and a sensitive soul, who enjoys reading and writing above most everything else.
ALSO: I’m a skinny, privileged, and slightly neurotic mommy blogger of Northern European descent who is self-consciously aware that most people more than two generations back or in some cases only one zip code away would say, ‘Whaddaya mean? You’re you. Honestly, who has time for this shit?’
2. What do I have to show for myself?
A whole lot of learning and hard-earned wisdom through failing and trying again. A very real marriage. Two opinionated children whom I adore. A handful-and-a-half of very real and true friends. A vision for my future where I can show up as myself, and where I am forgiven my trespasses.
ALSO: Maybe just a few pithy blog posts, that I can probably still fit into a pair of wedding-era jeans, that my husband and I still have sex and that my kids don’t swear….yet.
3. When will I find peace?
When I stop hustling for self-worth. Not there yet. But I do have periods of it, usually after I hit the button ‘Publish’.
ALSO: When I give up coffee and wine, meditate every day, unsubscribe from all social media, move somewhere warm, and just really let myself go. #lifegoals
4. Where should I devote my best energy?
To that which makes me feel alive, and that which I can uniquely do. Writing. Mothering our children. Local activism and service.
ALSO: To showing up on time so that I don’t arrive everywhere in such a goddamn frazzle, which understandably stresses people out and annoys them.
5. How do I sustain love and find joy?
Intention. By expecting less and accepting more.
ALSO: Therapy. DUH.